Setting Healthy Boundaries in a Relationship

Setting healthy boundaries in a relationship

Love is blind.  We’ve all heard this at some point, either from a caring relative or friend, who is trying to gently tell us that we are avoiding the truth of a relationship.  It’s hard to hear these words, to believe that someone we love so much and, perhaps, who professes to love us just the same, would ever do anything to that might hurt us.  Maybe we also see the signs, but we chose to ignore them, especially if the outcome could be losing the person we love the most.

Love can be blinding, no matter what type the love relationship may be.  No parent wants to think their beautiful child could ever do the naughty things they might be accused of as they grow up, just as no child wants to imagine their parent would have ever made any major mistakes in their life.  Perhaps we give too much of ourselves to those around us.   In the case of romantic relationships, it happens more often than we wish to think, and if not addressed sooner than later, can lead to a breakdown of the relationship over time.

So why do we allow ourselves to be blindsided by our loved ones?

Perhaps it is because we long to be loved by others.  We think that if we give enough to others, they will love us more, or will never abandon us.  We may see signs that our partner is less than perfect in their relationship with us, but we don’t want to “rock the boat”, dismissing our experiences as overthinking a situation.  Maybe we did try to address the situation, but our partner dismisses our concerns, telling us we are just being paranoid. However, avoiding setting healthy boundaries in our relationships only ensures future conflict, and dooms the relationship to failure.

Think of your relationship as a business partnership

There is no easy answer on how to approach this type of situation, but a helpful hint would be to think of your loving relationships just as you would a business partnership.  Each member of the business brings to the table special skills and talents that make the business work. On no specific day is it ever a 50/50 relationship with each partner doing exactly half of the work of the company, but if everyone works together, the business will grow and flourish.

In a company, partners sometimes have to work with other businesses to accomplish a common goal.  By using the scenario of a business partnership to consider your relationship circumstances, you are better able to think objectively about the situation in order to set more healthy boundaries. This change in thinking only works because the love aspect of the relationship is removed, allowing partners to refocus on respect and trust.

Consider these questions:

  • Would it ever be appropriate for your partner to keep you in the dark as to any details of negotiations and/or communications with other businesses/individuals?
  • Would it ever be appropriate for your partner to hide any benefits they have received for the business you have worked so hard together on building, or if your partner didn’t share any of these benefits with you, even if you are aware of them?
  • Would you ever tolerate your business partner depending on you to do all the hard work, while they are off enjoying the assets and/or free time you have given them by doing all their work?

To then begin to develop healthy boundaries, you must communicate your concerns to your partner.  Rather than accusing them of doing something wrong in the relationship, focus on your emotions related to your experience of what they have done, such as,

“I’ve been feeling very overwhelmed by all the housework we have to do around here, and I was wondering if we could work together to figure out how to make it more manageable for both of us.”

Another approach might be,

“I’ve been feeling really lonely lately when you come home so late from work.  Can we try to schedule some time later this week to reconnect?”  

Opening up the dialogue in a way that involves your partner, rather than accusing them, will leave them less defensive and more open to hearing what you have to.

No relationship is ever perfect.  No relationship will ever be 50/50.  However, if each partner works together to set healthy boundaries that promote trust, respect and partnership, the relationship will have a healthy foundation that will cause it to grow and flourish for many years to come.

As a Licensed Clinical Social worker with over 14 years of experience in the mental health field, Amanda specializes in the practice of individual, marital and family therapy. She strives to provide clients with the ability to set their own destiny, while constantly encouraging them to reach further for their goals. Amanda specializes in cognitive behavioral therapy, trauma treatment/Trauma Focused-Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, parent training/Parent-Child Interaction Therapy, and marriage and family therapy.

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